What Goes Up May Not Come Down: Asymmetric Incidence of Value-Added Taxes

Youssef Benzarti, Dorian Carloni, Jarkko Harju, Tuomas Kosonen

NBER Working Paper No. 23849
Issued in September 2017, Revised in November 2018
NBER Program(s):Public Economics

This paper shows that prices respond more to increases than to decreases in Value-Added Taxes (VATs). First, using two plausibly exogenous VAT changes, we show that prices respond twice as much to VAT increases than to VAT decreases. Second, we show that this asymmetry results in higher equilibrium profits and markups. Third, we find that firms operating with low profit margins are more likely to respond asymmetrically to the VAT changes than firms operating with high profit margins. Fourth, this asymmetry persists several years after the VAT changes take place. Fifth, using all VAT changes in the European Union from 1996 to 2015, we find similar levels of asymmetry.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23849

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